Pixels ease amputees' pain

February 1, 2007

A new virtual reality system that gives the illusion that a person's amputated limb is still there has helped ease phantom pain in amputees.

A new virtual reality system that gives the illusion that a person's amputated limb is still there has helped ease phantom pain in amputees.

Previous research using a mirror-box had found that when a person's brain is tricked into believing it can see and move a phantom limb, pain can decrease. Rather than use mirrors, Craig D. Murray, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Manchester in the U.K. used the latest 3D computer-generated graphics to allow patients to see themselves with two sets of limbs. Patients can use their remaining physical arm or leg to control the movements of a computer-generated limb.

"One patient felt that the fingers of her amputated hand were continually clenched into her palm, which was very painful for her. However, after just one session using the virtual system, she began to feel movement in her fingers, and the pain began to ease," said Murray, who presented the study in Denmark at the 2006 Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality, and Associated Technologies.